CARTAGENA, Spain – Specialists of Cartagena’s Spanish National Museum of Underwater Archeology have recovered samples of silver and gold cutlery with stamps and hallmarks certifying they belonged to a valuable Spanish warship that sank in 1804.
The marks point to the items having been aboard the Spanish Navy frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.
The discoveries were made between Sept. 10-18 during the second underwater survey campaign in Atlantic waters, where the shipwreck lies at a depth of over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet).
British warships had sunk the sail-powered vessel during an 1804 gun battle as it approached Spain as part of a fleet that had traveled from South America.
The frigate was believed to have had a crew of 200 and other occupants aboard when it exploded and sank.
The ship’s rich haul hit the headlines in 2007 when the United States treasure-hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploration removed the treasure, worth as much as $500 million to collectors, and transported it to its Florida base.
A drawn-out legal battle ensued with the Spanish State arguing in court that the salvage company had ransacked a haul including more than 600,000 mostly silver coins.
Spain managed to recover what was considered to be one of the richest marine hauls ever in 2012 after a drawn-out legal battle.
Most of the recovered pieces are currently on display at the Arqua Museum, but the real objective of this campaign is to demonstrate, without a doubt, that the recovered artifacts belong to the Spanish frigate sunk by the Royal Navy over two centuries ago.
According to the Arqua Museum’s director, Ivan Negueruela, the outcome has been “highly satisfactory” as they were able to recover 34 tableware pieces, among other objects, that appear registered on the frigate’s cargo manifest as stated in historical documents held at Seville’s Archivo de Indias, Spain’s comprehensive national archive relating to links with the Americas.
Also of great importance are the nine silver coins, which unlike the tons of coinage hauled out in haste by Odyssey, were recovered almost undamaged. A bronze cannon has also been salvaged.
These findings, Negueruela said, certify the wreckage as belonging to the Spanish frigate.
The Spanish Ministry of Culture is studying a third recovery campaign in 2017, although they have already decided that most of the artifacts are to remain at the bottom of the ocean as established by the UNESCO Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage.